Thursday, April 28, 2011

A simple productivity hack

I have learned a simple productivity hack that is working very well for me. Here it is:

1. Choose one task

2. Set your phone timer for 20 minutes

3. For that 20 minutes just focus on that one task. No email, phone calls, texts, facebook wall posting, tweets allowed

4. Once you are done, take a 5 minute break for all the distractions

5. Repeat

I often get more done in these 20 minute sprints than in one hour of distracting work. How did it work for you?

Once again considered for Clear Admit Best blogger award

Glad to be in the company of Dino, Jeremy and Orlando!

Monday, April 25, 2011

My new Resume site + great marketing

Thanks to the folks at, I have a new resume site here. Snappages offers users the ability to create a free site with the use of their LinkedIn profile. It gives the user something of value, and also engages the user, moving them from the interest phase to the evaluation phase in the marketing funnel. Great marketing!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Great marketing example

Hilton just showed Kellogg a brilliant piece of marketing. All graduating students get free five years of Gold status for Hilton Honors. 40% of Kellogg students end up in consulting => lot of high paying customers. Extremely good targeting Hilton!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Another great Kellogg video

Wondering if you should come to Kellogg? A current student explains why he chose the school, and why you should too.

Music video produced for DAK 2011 (Day at Kellogg)
Written and performed by John DiGiovanni
Directed and edited by Chris Reynolds
Audio mixed by Ben Estes

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quote of the day

"We human beings are like porcupine. We want to get close to stay warm in winters, but get too close and we risk injuring each other"

- adapted from Freud

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Matt Scheinker, VP of consumer experience at AOL gave a Keynote speech at the Kellogg Tech Conference 2011. His topic was innovation, and his message, in the most simple terms was "Don't Innovate; just solve problems. He gave several fine examples of how some of the best innovations come from people recognizing and solving problems. The twitter feed from the speech can be viewed at!/search?q=%23kelloggtechaol

However sometimes the needs and problems are not obvious. An example I was jut reading in the book 'The Riddle' by Kellogg professor Andrew Razeghi suggests looking at needs/problems/opportunities in terms of what cannot be done in a particular context. This is because needs are not always obvious to people.

An example he gives is as follows: If you ask soldiers hiding in foxholes what they need, they would likely come up with sources of food, water, blankets etc. However if think of what they cannot do, then things change. They cannot execute orders at night, because they cannot read the orders, because they cannot light a light, because if they do, they will get shot by the enemy. So they need a way to read in the dark;

This is how "Ecriture Nocturne" (night writing) code was invented, which ultimately evolved into the Braille code.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The get an iPad for $24 business model

Recently, there has been a number of companies that advertise things such as an iPad for $24, a vacation to Hawaii for $300 etc. etc. Quibids and OffAndAway are some of them. But behind these offers lies an amazing business model. Let's look at an example:

A site starts with an iPad being sold at $0.01. Every time that someone bids on the iPad, they get charged $1 for the bid, and it adds $0.01 to the price of the iPad, and adds 10 seconds on the clock.

Typically, once the site has enough users, there are a lot of people waiting for those last 10 seconds and a chance to win the iPad for like 95% off. So lets assume that happens. iPad sold for $25. The site loses a lot of money, right?

Consider how much money the site gets for the bid. To raise the price from $0.01, to $25, there had to be 2499 bids! That means people spent $2499. So the site gets $2499 plus $24.99. What is the gross margin on this thing? Even if the iPad was $500, the gross margin was 80%!

But what about the downside? What if people do not bid much? There is a significant downside, but the point is that the site can monitor this closely and start closing out items that do not sell.

So the key question is, how long does it take to people to figure out the problem with the business model, and that their chances for winning the iPad are slim? Time will tell.

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's just data

One of the struggles in a startup is conflicting advice. Several experienced mentors might give you the exact opposite advice.

Do More Faster gives a unique perspective on this problem. Very simply, consider each piece of advice as just another data point; just one person's perspective. Then rely on your own judgement, make a decision and move on.

It's just data

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Yelp platform success

"The key to Yelp's success is that it is a reliable, user-friendly local information service that reflects the passion of its users."(from this BBC article)

Platforms are a tough business. Above all, they suffer from a chicken and egg problem. Let's take a video game console as a platform that connects gamers and game developers. If you do not have enough gamers which have the console, why would the game developers put in time, effort and money into developing games for that platform. And if you do not have enough games available, why would anyone buy the console.

They key to success in platforms is getting pricing right i.e., figuring out which side to subsidize, and how. This is why Microsoft and Sony sell their consoles lower than the cost to manufacture and distribute these systems, and then make up profit on fees from developers., and other social platforms face a similar but different challenge. Initially there were prices. Both businesses and reviewers are online for free. But what use would a review site be without reviews? Yelp solved this problem by building social mechanisms for good work. A key part of this is the user profile page that highlights the behaviors that Yelp is trying to encourage. A related post can be found here.

Why the sudden interest in Yelp? I am working on a platform business idea, and so was looking for inspiration. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Well played KSA. Well played

IBM buys Yelp. Feefighters raises $41MM. Etc. Etc. The internet has been full of April 1st jokes. I thought nothing would faze me. And then it did.

This afternoon Kellogg Student Association president Brian Van Wagener sent out an email - that TG (which stands for thank goodness its Friday) will be moved to Mondays (71.2% of students voted for that apparently). Also, because its a class day, no alcohol will be served.

Now those of you who don't know about TG - all you need to do is to read this post by Orlando. The very thought of this tradition being scrapped in favor of a monday morning coffee get together was absurd. I was puzzled and angry at the same time. Apparently so were 150 other Kellogg students who replied to Brian within an hour. And then, just before TG began, Brian sent out an email clarifying the intent of the KSA joke.

Wow, well played guys. Well played.

All types of creativity are not equal

Just started reading 'The Riddle' by Andrew Razeghi, a renowned Kellogg Professor. Already came across two key insights:

1. There are three kinds of creativity: artistic creativity, scientific creativity and conceptual creativity. They are very different from each other.

2. Conceptual creativity is the creativity we associate with solving problems and with business creativity. Prof. Razeghi's definition of conceptual creativity is what makes a dog paddle; once the barking stops, the swimming begins. When we have to figure things out, we do.

So far, the book is exceedingly interesting and useful at the same time.